Three people confess to murdering a family in their home, and the team has to unravel the lies and half-truths to discover who is responsible.
The team is called out to an environmentally friendly neighborhood when blood starts spraying out of a sprinkler in front of one of the houses. The sprinkler is part of a grey water system, which means water from the house is recycled into the sprinkler, and the blood has been draining from the body of a woman found in the shower. She is one of four victims, and she was stabbed 24 times with the sharp edge of a towel bar yanked from the wall. The woman’s husband was shot three times while watching football on the couch, and an older woman in a wheelchair was stabbed 12 times with a knife right inside the front door. The fourth victim is a little girl, Fiona, who was shot once in the head, and there is evidence that she was cleaned up and redressed.
The window in Fiona’s room is broken, and the team sees blood on a jagged edge of glass. Blood drops lead around the house and across the street to the home of John Lee, and they find him holding the little girl’s bloody nightgown. The man’s bedroom is set up in the exact same arrangement as Fiona’s room, including the same dollhouse on the floor beneath the window. There are pictures hidden inside the back panel of the dollhouse, and Morgan finds bootprints outside Fiona’s bedroom window that have been there for a while. John has been watching her for quite some time.
At first, John says he didn’t kill the girl. He looked in and saw her dead, but he couldn’t leave her like that, so he broke in and cleaned her up. After a bit more pressure, however, he confesses to all four murders. Things get more complicated when a woman named Leslie Gitig comes into the precinct and claims that she is the real killer. She was having an affair with the husband, Cal, and he promised he’d leave his wife—but he didn’t. Leslie was sitting in front of his house, like she always does, and she went to the door. When the old woman wouldn’t let her in, she killed her and made her way inside to kill the others. She describes the deaths accurately. If she wasn’t involved, she must know someone in the precinct or the morgue who could tell her the exact details.
John passively watched Fiona for so long that it seems unlikely he would suddenly decide to kill the family. Leslie tells the team where to find the gun she used, and they find the right type of gun in that exact place—but it isn’t a match. She also reveals a lie by saying she stabbed the mother with a knife. The footprints outside Fiona’s window match John’s shoes, but bloody footprints inside the house belong to a man with larger feet.
The Chambliss family was selling drugs to pay the bills. There is a fake electrical panel in Fiona’s bedroom, and the team finds drugs and money inside. John says the family let strange men into the house and into the girl’s bedroom. They find a fingerprint in the niche behind the electrical panel that leads back to Lonny Gallows, who has prior drug arrests. John saw that man in Fiona’s room a lot. When they go to arrest Lonny, his father Maurice runs over and says his son is innocent. Maurice killed the Chambliss family himself because he blames them for his son’s drug use; the young man was clean after rehab until he met Cal and Susan Chambliss.
Maurice’s confession gets Leslie out of jail, and John got out on bail. The team tries to figure out which one of their suspects is the actual killer, and DB points out that all three confessions start out exactly the same: “I did it. I’m the one who killed the Chambliss family.” They all had a reason to want someone in that house dead, and they worked together. Leslie came up with the idea after stalking Cal and seeing John and Maurice at the house. She intentionally got into an accident with Maurice and took their cars to John’s shop so she could meet both men and set her plan in motion.
The team heads to Leslie’s house, but they hear a gunshot. John has shot her, and the truth comes out. She talked him into going by telling him he could have Fiona. He didn’t know what was going to happen. Leslie told him to kill the child, but he couldn’t do it. Leslie shot her, and John came back later to clean her up. He shot Leslie for taking Fiona away from him, and he kills himself before they can arrest him.
The real gun traces back to Lonny. If Maurice doesn’t say what really happened, his son will get arrested. He tells the truth, saying Leslie set it up, but she said only Cal would die. She killed the grandmother at the door, and he had no choice but to go in after Cal. Leslie went after the mother and then the little girl.
“Tell Tale Hearts” is a strong follow-up to last week’s season premiere, and it’s an excellent episode in its own right. DB Russell is really settling in as a member of the Las Vegas Crime Lab, and he brings an interesting perspective to the team. One of his methods is to get into the head of a suspect or victim to better understand what happened. Last week, he tried to see things from Tom Finnerty’s point of view, one of the tram victims. This week, Sara walks into John Lee’s kitchen to find DB looking through the freezer. He points out that John seems immature, and he begins speaking as if he is John himself. Sara wonders why he’s putting himself in the suspect’s shoes instead of the victims’. DB says, “I go with whoever has the best story to tell.” In the bedroom with Catherine, rather than rifle through drawers searching for evidence, DB just stands there and looks around—but the whole time, he’s thinking about John and making observations about him as a person. DB may be a bit odd, but his methods are effective.
The episode also reminds the audience that DB is a family man, and he mentions his children during the scene in John Lee’s kitchen. At the end of the hour, Catherine approaches DB in his office. It’s clear that she wants to say something, but the audience is left wondering after his phone rings and she prompts him to take it. As she walks out of his office, she and the audience can hear DB talking to his wife. Earlier in the episode, DB calls a “family meeting” with Nick, Greg and Morgan, and the three younger CSIs give him a strange look as they assemble to discuss the evidence in the Chambliss home.
Morgan gets more screentime this week, and I really love the character so far. Her relationship with her father has a lot of potential, and I’m looking forward to seeing how that develops this season. It seems like Ecklie is trying to reach out a bit, but Morgan is trying to maintain some distance. It won’t be easy for them to reconcile their differences, but it will certainly be interesting to watch. Elisabeth Harnois is wonderful, and I really like her onscreen dynamic with Marc Vann.
Morgan also has a great dynamic with the team, and she has a few good scenes this week as the viewers see her out in the field for the first time in Las Vegas. She has some trouble getting to the Chambliss house with her GPS, and she ends up driving down a steep hill to reach the scene. Nick watches her progress, and she tells him that Vegas needs more highways. Not only is it a funny scene, it’s also a nice reminder that Morgan isn’t from around here, and I hope we get a lot of scenes showing her perspective compared to the others. Like DB, I feel like she has a lot to offer in terms of shaking things up and helping the team look at their job with fresh eyes. One example that immediately comes to mind is the scene with Morgan, Sara and Greg in the lab. Morgan and Sara are discussing John Lee’s obsession with Fiona, and they point out that the parents had to know. The mother didn’t work, and the father was laid off; if they were home so much, they had to notice a man lurking outside their daughter’s window at all hours. However, they didn’t call the cops, and Morgan suggests that they couldn’t because they had something to hide. She points out that at least 70% of murders in Los Angeles are drug-related, and Greg confirms her suspicions a moment later when he enters the lab with two items he found in the Chambliss house: a large amount of baking powder and a very accurate scale. They were cutting drugs, and the CSIs find the stash hidden in Fiona’s bedroom. Morgan has a big smile on her face when she says, “I love it when I’m right.”
“Tell Tale Hearts” marks the introduction of new ballistics expert Xiomara Garcia. Monique Gabriela Curnen is only in one brief scene, so there isn’t much to judge her by, but I’m curious to see how she fits in with the rest of the cast. We learn this week that she was in the Marines, and I hope we get to know more about her in upcoming episodes. I’m disappointed that Bobby Dawson (Gerald McCullouch) is gone, but I’ll give the new tech a chance to win me over.
Hodges is certainly not new to CSI, but his scene this week is a classic. Nick walks into the lab to find the man looking closely at a red mark on his hand, which he reveals is from battery acid. He was looking for the murder weapons in the vicinity of the Chambliss house, and he dropped his gloves. When he reached down to pick them up, he hurt himself in the process. Nick suggests that he shouldn’t be allowed to leave the lab, and it’s hard to disagree—leave it to Hodges to stick his hand in battery acid!
DB notices a connection between their case and the 1951 Alfred Hitchcock thriller Strangers on a Train. The film suggests that two complete strangers can get away with murder by switching targets; without a motive to provide a connection to the victim, the police wouldn’t be able to track them down. That’s the theory, at least. As CSI proves this week, that doesn’t work out when the Las Vegas Crime Lab is on the case. The team uncovers the elaborate plot in the end, and this isn’t the first episode of the flagship series to reference Strangers on a Train. “A Night At The Movies” back in season three featured a pair of women who met at a lawyer’s office and came up with an idea about how to get rid of the men who sexually assaulted them. One of the women refused to go through with her end of the deal, and the other woman killed her. Over on CSI: New York, the season four episode “Commuted Sentences” dealt with something similar. In that episode, two rape victims met on a train and subsequently went after men who got away with violent crimes against women. This time, both women went through with it, but one of the women was accidentally killed in the process.
“Tell Tale Hearts” features some really great guest stars in the form of the three suspects. James Harvey Ward is quite creepy as a pedophile who has been watching young Fiona for years. At the same time, he manages to make the character ever-so-slightly sympathetic. It’s an interesting balance. Amy Davidson is great to watch as the mastermind behind the whole scheme, and it’s obvious from Leslie’s first scene that she might be telling lies, but she was definitely involved. The character is clearly unhinged, and it’s chilling to see her attack three out of the four victims in the flashbacks at the end. Chris Mulkey has the least screentime of the three, but it’s hard not to feel bad for Maurice as a desperate father trying to protect his son. John and Maurice have been drawn into Leslie’s web, and things went too far. We don’t learn much about the victims, but the suspects are well fleshed out.
The interrogation with Maurice is of particular interest since it makes an indirect reference to Brass’s daughter Ellie. Ellie was last seen in the season six finale, “Way to Go”, after Brass was shot. “Way to Go” suggested that Ellie may have cleaned up her act, but in her previous appearance in season five’s “Hollywood Brass”, viewers saw that she was involved with drugs and prostitution. When Maurice talks about watching his child’s life fall apart due to drugs, Brass admits that he knows exactly how that feels, and his facial expression says so much. DB is sitting beside Brass in the interrogation, and he offers his colleague a wordless glance. There’s a lot left unsaid, and it’s a powerful scene between three very different fathers. Brass and DB are still virtual strangers, and I hope we get to see more interaction between them in the coming months.
See also: “Tell Tale Hearts” episode guide.